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Armed With Naiveté

Posted on Jan 7, 2012
Glyn Lowe Photos (CC-BY)

By Bill McKibben, TomDispatch

(Page 2)

If he did it secretly, the newspaper reporter who uncovered the scandal would win a Pulitzer. But a political reporter who bothered to point out Boehner’s and McConnell’s payoffs would be upbraided by her editor for simpleminded journalism.  That’s how the game is played and we’ve all bought into it, even if only to sputter in hopeless outrage.

Far from showing any shame, the big players boast about it: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, front outfit for a consortium of corporations, has bragged on its website about outspending everyone in Washington, which is easy to do when Chevron, Goldman Sachs, and News Corp are writing you seven-figure checks. This really matters.  The Chamber of Commerce spent more money on the 2010 elections than the Republican and Democratic National Committees combined, and 94% of those dollars went to climate-change deniers.  That helps explain why the House voted last year to say that global warming isn’t real.

It also explains why “our” representatives vote, year in and year out, for billions of dollars worth of subsidies for fossil-fuel companies. If there was ever an industry that didn’t need subsidies, it would be this one: they make more money each year than any enterprise in the history of money. Not only that, but we’ve known how to burn coal for 300 years and oil for 200.

Those subsidies are simply payoffs. Companies give small gifts to legislators, and in return get large ones back, and we’re the ones who are actually paying.


Square, Site wide
Whose Money?  Whose Washington?

I don’t want to be hopelessly naïve. I want to be hopefully naïve. It would be relatively easy to change this: you could provide public financing for campaigns instead of letting corporations pay. It’s the equivalent of having the National Football League hire referees instead of asking the teams to provide them.

Public financing of campaigns would cost a little money, but endlessly less than paying for the presents these guys give their masters. And it would let you watch what was happening in Washington without feeling as disgusted.  Even legislators, once they got the hang of it, might enjoy neither raising money nor having to pretend it doesn’t affect them.

To make this happen, however, we may have to change the Constitution, as we’ve done 27 times before. This time, we’d need to specify that corporations aren’t people, that money isn’t speech, and that it doesn’t abridge the First Amendment to tell people they can’t spend whatever they want getting elected. Winning a change like that would require hard political organizing, since big banks and big oil companies and big drug-makers will surely rally to protect their privilege.

Still, there’s a chance.  The Occupy movement opened the door to this sort of change by reminding us all that the system is rigged, that its outcomes are unfair, that there’s reason to think people from across the political spectrum are tired of what we’ve got, and that getting angry and acting on that anger in the political arena is what being a citizen is all about.

It’s fertile ground for action.  After all, Congress’s approval rating is now at 9%, which is another way of saying that everyone who’s not a lobbyist hates them and what they’re doing. The big boys are, of course, counting on us simmering down; they’re counting on us being cynical, on figuring there’s no hope or benefit in fighting city hall. But if we’re naïve enough to demand a country more like the one we were promised in high school civics class, then we have a shot.

A good time to take an initial stand comes later this month, when rallies outside every federal courthouse will mark the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision. That’s the one where the Supreme Court ruled that corporations had the right to spend whatever they wanted on campaigns.

To me, that decision was, in essence, corporate America saying, “We’re not going to bother pretending any more. This country belongs to us.”

We need to say, loud and clear: “Sorry. Time to give it back.”

Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, founder of the global climate campaign, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.  To catch Timothy MacBain’s first Tomcast audio interview of the new year in which McKibben discusses how the rest of us can compete with a system in which money talks, click here.

© 2012 Bill McKibben

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By terry p, January 16, 2012 at 4:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hi IMaximus:

Sorry about taking so long to respond. I just got back from a long trip. No point in telling you how far. You wouldn’t believe me.

I will tell you though that from my Vietnam experiences in the sixties, I saw enough blood and guts to last and I was way way further away from home than I cared to be. So, you make a valid point about my wanting to stay close to home away from all that destruction of which our Military Industrial Complex releases all over the world lending support to our supposed interests(of which Wall Street investment wizards bag their loot through IMF arrangements of far reaching austerity measures).

So sure, as the ultimate imperial country we are in almost every other country employing, I’d say it would be more at enslaving people. Probably more than any other ever. We have taken more from the world than any other country in history too. We’ve taken so much we think that there is an unlimited amount to take. Now when I say we, I mean the .01 percent who control wall street. 

There is another we though. We, the decedents of pilgrims who reside in the USA, but, we didn’t evolve here. Although I did - partially. We, for the most part, inherited our empirical genes from the European countries. We make up this young country still madly idolizing and/or looking for gold else where because it’s limited here. We pilgrims instinctivly believe that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, you see. Most of our older more mature ancestor countries in Europe, Asia and Africa have learned that social programs are necessary for the economy. They have learned that if you take care of your people they will take care of you. If you treat your people bad. It will end badly for you, IMaximus, since you are part of we the 99% and not what you fantasize >>> the .01%.

Here in the USA: Some of the richest continue their conquest for more. A magical New World is out there ripe for the taking. So, they keep attacking defenseless territories in a heartless gold fever push. When their gambles turns bad and they run out of places to go they turn on the less fortunate poor to pay their debts.

Since you fantasized about me and the others, I’ll fantasize about you(as though this is the first time:?). I’ll bet that you got a nice inheritance from your daddy. You are afraid that it will some how be worth less if people who can’t afford healthcare gets care. And, you’re afraid that a free public education right through college for all would somehow threaten your inheritance and your hierarchy in society. When private employers have enough employees, it would really bother you to see the government hire all others willing and anxious to work. It might solve problems like putting to work families that would be otherwise be raised under bridges and in Wall-Mart parking lots or even with parents who are in jail cells to build up our infrastructure and circulating money(see the Post Script below).

Speaking of jail cell, to change directions slightly: legalizing marijuana and releasing drug related inmates would probably blow your mind and be a little too much for you to grasp. But it could solve major border problems and open up environmentally sound investment and employment opportunities for developing hemp products instead of wiping out the rain forests which contribute to global warming.

The thing about commenting is that I don’t have to prove anything to you. If you need proof check out Wikipedia. I think most here know what’s happening. We’ve been paying attention - lately.

For I am Synonymos


PS: IMaximus if you need proof or data- Check out “The Web of Debt” by Ellen Brown. It will shine the light on your heroes, the Banksters and reveal the answers to our economical problems. :?)

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By IMax, January 12, 2012 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment

Synonymos, - “You actually think we should feel proud of feeding the world when we take the world’s resources and the ability of it’s citizens to feed themselves. You think trading a living for a drink of water is fair?”


I believe you and Lafayette have never lived more than 200 miles from your respective birthplaces.  Surfboy, in my opinion, has yet to leave his.

Each of you have created a caricature of the globe through various media sources - Movies, television, books, and the Internet. You have in common a Western-centric view of people and their sufferings.  And because you find others who hold these same, now deeply rooted, Western views you authenticate each other.  The caricatures you’ve created are then perpetuated, and so on.

You all are not the center of the universe.


Begin by proving me wrong.

The United States has created an economic engine which feeds, houses, and employes more people than all of Europe COMBINED.  The United States gives more aid to African Aids Relief (the most dire threat facing the continent) than the entire remaining world, combined.

Begin by proving me wrong.

What is one of the first things you notice about Americans after an extended stay in Europe? Is it the evil and destructive nature of Americans? Or does it occur to you how friendly and easy to smile people here are?

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By terry p, January 12, 2012 at 5:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think I live next door to IMax.
I need a drink but my water is on fire.
Cynical? Me?
My dog is old. We used to walk.
It’s gona be a clear day.

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By Lafayette, January 11, 2012 at 9:14 am Link to this comment


If I may? I’d like to supplant some substance over your symbolism in regards to ‘social justice’.

Since, apparently, you like to make a fool of yourself by doing so – be my guest …

The United States and it’s Free-Market system feeds more, houses more, medically treats more and employs more human being on this planet than every nation in Europe combined. 

Yada, yada, yada, yada .... yada.

Mindless malarkey and I’d like to see from where you get this crap. But never mind.

I’ll put my response on a higher level. Here goes: In terms of Quality of Life, go see the annual study of the magazine International Living and its ranking of countries here.  The US is seventh after six other countries, five of which are European.

But, of course, this magazine is published out of Luxembourg in Europe - obviously by pinkos, commies and stinky-socialists. So we can’t have any of their empirical nonsense corrupting our purist values, can we?

A Free-Market system allows people to be free. Free to choose a job, a school, a book, a type of home, car, food, marriage, lifestyle and governance.

You actually think none of the above comment is a reality in the EU?

What planet do you live on? One where “Ignorance is bliss”?


I am a firm believer in the productive efficacy of free-market systems. I am a non-believer in the idiocy that the free-market system “always gets it right” - because if left unbridled it simply causes wealth to trickle upwards not downwards. This imbalance is morally unconscionable in any advanced society.

The mistake Right-wing dogma makes is to think that, since the EU consists of Social Democrat countries, then obviously they are centrally planned with government intervention in the free-market system. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Try to distinguish between McCarthy Pinko-Commie-Fellow Travelers, real Socialists who believe in centrally planned economies (if any such animal still survives) and a Centrist Mixed Economy where the Government asserts Progressive Values.

What are Progressive Values? First and foremost, they are centered upon those policies that allow citizens to live with human dignity.

That is, a modicum of economic security, a policy of universal health care sheltering them from debilitating illnesses and nearly free primary, secondary and tertiary education with which to secure decent wages at decent jobs. With those elements assured, their place in an existing free-market economy will accomplish the rest - unless income taxation is berserk.

When taxation in a free-market economy goes crazy, as in the US, a country has 20% of the population own 93% of the wealth, whilst 80% of the population scrambles for a tiny 7% share of the remaining economic pie.

And I’ve given the source of that finding so often over the past four years that it is no longer necessary to repeat it.

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By Synonymos, January 11, 2012 at 5:25 am Link to this comment


You actually think we should feel proud of feeding the world when we take the world’s resources and the ability of it’s citizens to feed themselves. You think trading a living for a drink of water is fair? Shame on you.

As for your debate IMaximus with Lafayette, the big questions seems to be: Is it the hand outs given by the Rothschild banksters of EU or USA’s Rockefeller/Morgan banksters with their imperial IMF deal making loans that feed the world? Or is it the other way around that the world feeds these empirical banksters in trillions consisting of devaluated national treasuries and dehumanizing austerity measure deals?

tp :?]

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By Tuscany, January 10, 2012 at 7:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Jack W.
Buddy Roemer on his website states that one of the biggest financial mistakes the US made last year was that we didn’t immeidately OK the XLpipeline.  He claims that it would have made for a lot of jobs.
To me this means first of all that he doesn’t care about climate change.  Secondly, it is dishonest to say that it would have made for a lot of jobs.  We all know that the project would generate only few temporary jobs.
Suggest you look up Rocky Anderson on wikipedia, a true progressive who really cares.

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By IMax, January 10, 2012 at 11:16 am Link to this comment

Surf, - “To think that giving clean water to starving children forces one to ‘only be grateful’ without any reflection on how the water was provided is overconfident at best.”


Obviously you’ve never looked into the face of a Mother who’s child is suffering starvation or dysentery. Unfortunately I have.  That Mother will not, even for a second, concern herself with how that water is provided. - It’s equally obvious that you’ve never cared for someone more than you care for yourself. I don’t say that with malice or ill intent. I’m only stating the obvious.

With that said, nothing in your last post is relevant to the fact that the United States feeds, houses, and employs more people than any nation on earth.  You, oddly enough, call it subjugation.

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By Synonymos, January 10, 2012 at 9:08 am Link to this comment

omment #12345 by on 1/10 at 7:51 am

WHootie Who:

If you think we live in a domocrcy…. well you’re just not paying attention. You are afflicted with a common American ailment called gold fever.

There can never be too much education, as Lafayette keeps pointing out. But, truth is not always clear or represented in class rooms. Truth is compromised by faith and superstition which is used by serious ancient powers determined to keep the system as is. That is the system that needs to be challenged.

The only way to change isn’t by vote but rather by revolution. That revolution is in the beginning stages. It didn’t begin with the OWS or the other contemporary occupations. I don’t think it is clear when it began. Some political pros here excuse the present governing system by rewinding our evolutionary genes to the beginning of our species showing our instinct for war as though that survival instinct is just and acceptable.

I think not.  Each time a group of people is mistreated so that one person profits, retaliation is instilled in the minds of that group of people. Justice is needed but since the system isn’t challenged it leads to war. Protest or war either leads to change or the process is repeated. Until, finally and inevitably when those groups of people grow to a point that one or the few systemic old dictators can’t profit by the mistreatment of the many change begins to happen.

It has reached that point. Voting don’t matter [in this corrupt system any more] because the voice of the people isn’t being heard in our election process. Only money has a voice loud enough for our elected reps. Getting out in the street, assembling and acting up, through real democratic actions by more and more supporters of change will finally change the system. It is educating both for the actors or activists and the audiences or elected reps.

OWS is, rapidly not genetically, building a system of it’s own.

OWS has it’s own online publishing > It is like a tiny new government which is an example of the democratic ideals we were lead to believe in years ago. OWS is a government of the people instead of ‘Wall Street’.

Ellen Brown, has been trying to get the word out about corruption since the Bush came out on national TV and said that unless the government, which is @ least 99% of the people, bailed the banks(less than .01% that are too big to fail or jail) we would go into a depression that would dwarf the Great Depression. It was a bluff and we bought into it. Read her book “The Web of Debt”. Find out about secret bail outs like the PPT(Plunge Protection Team[the big banks] established by Ronald Reagan) which was a presidential order giving them free money from our government to invest into the stock market when it starts declining. Find out how Wall Street really works and maneuvers like a wizard behind a curtain. Think Fractional Reserve Banking is just a rumor? It is real and it’s like a counterfeiting printing press for these banksters.


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By IMax, January 10, 2012 at 6:30 am Link to this comment


Whether it a giant or a midget, when someone gives your starving children breakfast, more importantly clean water, you don’t pretend to be grateful. You will be grateful.

Only those who feel safe and well-fed make the arguments we see here.  Most people living on this planet would label many here wealthy, ignorant, cold-hearted, elitists.

People such as gerard find it “boring” to speak of how the poorest in the United States are, literally, TRULY wealthy compared to the majority of the world’s inhabitants.  The conversation doesn’t merit the time and energy. Such conversations are “irrelevant” to the plight of the American people.

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By IMax, January 9, 2012 at 8:18 pm Link to this comment

Welcome to the human condition, gerard.  I would encourage you to widen your perspective to include the rest of the planet and its roughly 6.5 billion other inhabitants in roughly 200 other countries.

-Tell us now, in direct and succinct language, which system of governance and economy do you advocate which eliminates your list of human miseries?

-Do you know the answers to the following?  Which nation on earth feeds more people than any other on the planet?  Which nation on earth employes the most people on the planet?  Which nation gives more aid and assistance to African AIDS relief than all other nations on the planet, combined?

Of this I am certain. You, gerard, know nothing of real misery and agony. You concern yourself with one nation.

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By gerard, January 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm Link to this comment

LaFayette:  Bored half to death by certain people last year, I made a stupid New Years Resolution not to respond any more to his comments.  But for Pete’s sake!  Now we have to listen to this yet again: “A Free-Market system allows people to be free.’
  Could you please take a moment to remind him of a couple of facts:
  The Free-Market system, as of this minute, allows:
    People to go hungry
    People to live in cars, under bridges and along freeway offramps as well as in deserted buildings.
    People to die on the streets in front of hospitals.
    People to remain jailed for years for minor
run-ins with the law
    People to be gassed in the face for protesting.
    Children under 18 to be “tried as adults.”
    Capital punishment in spite of lack of clear evidence.
    War upon war against small foreign countries
killing tens of thousands of young men (and women) and ruining the future lives of thousands more.
  Any crazy person to buy a gun.   

  Thank you for your kindness and greetings for the New Year.

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By IMax, January 9, 2012 at 6:17 pm Link to this comment


I don’t yet know how to have a constructive conversation this way.  That is to say, it’s not your place to tell me what I meant to write.

“The United States and it’s Free-Market system feeds more, houses more, medically treats more and employs more human being on this planet than every nation in Europe combined.

Allow me to add another context to the picture: Americans are some of the most charitable people on earth. Americans can afford to be*. That’s a good thing and deserves to be placed squarely in the positive column.


*The U.S. produces more income, more goods, more services, more food and housing while maintaining a higher GDP and MUCH higher historic employment (with the highest corporate tax rate) than does the UE-15 or UE-25 COMBINED.

P.S. I am all for a higher corporate tax rate. Americans can afford it. My opinion, however, doesn’t change the facts.

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By bidelo, January 9, 2012 at 3:47 pm Link to this comment


Then you mistated it. You should not have said “combined”, you should have said “individually”. I really don’t see your point.  European countries could not possibly achieve what the US has in terms of numbers simply because no single European country’s population approaches that of the US.  But in terms of a per capita basis, the things you mentioned are equivalent or better in Europe.  Europe generally has a better record of providing healthcare, has fewer homeless people, less hunger (the US probably has lower unemployment historically.)

I could equally well say: “The European Union and it’s Free-Market system feeds more, houses more, medically treats more and employs more human being on this planet than the United States.” and you would be right to say, well there’s more people there.

What you did say in your post was that the US is a free-market economy, the you chose Europe as a contrast (presumably you think Europe is not a free-market economy), and go on to use several quality of life indicators that are the same, if not better, in Europe.  I don’t get it.

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By IMax, January 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm Link to this comment


You misread and misunderstood my point.

“The United States and it’s Free-Market system feeds more, houses more, medically treats more and employs more human being on this planet than every nation in Europe combined.

Yes, I am from, and live on, this planet.

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By bidelo, January 9, 2012 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment


“The United States and it’s Free-Market system feeds more, houses more, medically treats more and employs more human being on this planet than every nation in Europe combined.  A Free-Market system allows people to be free. Free to choose a job, a school, a book, a type of home, car, food, marriage, lifestyle and governance.”

You’ve got to be kidding, right?  Europe combined has twice the population of the US, and last time I looked virtually everybody was housed, had medical care (mostly universal, unlick the US!) and the employment rate was prertty high.  Do you think Europeans are not free to choose jobs, cars, food, schools, lifestyle, governanace!!?  And several European countries have freer marriage laws that the US.

Are you from the same planet?

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By David J. Cyr, January 9, 2012 at 11:47 am Link to this comment

The insane comedic conflict between the corporate party’s really retrograde Republicans and its deeply depraved Democrats is a historically (intent upon ending human history) foolish factional fight over how best to continue corporate government’s failed-state policies, so that our children will either have no future at all, or have no future worth having… the corporate (R) & (D) party’s two 2012 choices.

VIDEO - A Message of Change, on Which Real Hope Depends:

Voter Consent Wastes Dissent:

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By IMax, January 9, 2012 at 10:35 am Link to this comment


If I may? I’d like to supplant some substance over your symbolism in regards to ‘social justice’.

The United States and it’s Free-Market system feeds more, houses more, medically treats more and employs more human being on this planet than every nation in Europe combined.  A Free-Market system allows people to be free. Free to choose a job, a school, a book, a type of home, car, food, marriage, lifestyle and governance.

Even with its many faults, and there are many, the Free-market system works to lift more people out of poverty than any system yet devised.  The whole of Europe would not be doing half as well today if not for the greatest economic engine mankind has ever seen.

Hundreds of millions of human-beings in both China and India have been pulled up from starvation due to each having adopted more free-market forces into their economies in the past few decades.

I still say the majority of Americans are not dumb for rejected your notion of ‘social justice’.  Americans simply dismiss your ideas on how best to lift the greatest number people out of hunger, poverty, homelessness and illiteracy.

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By Lafayette, January 9, 2012 at 9:19 am Link to this comment


IMax: You repeat it here often.

You are not the only reader of this blog. The message bears repeating; some people are slow learners.

Imagine how moderate Americans, the majority, feel about your rationalization.

Rationalization for you - you live in America.

Social Justice is a reality for me, I live in Europe. It is improvable, but works widely. And nations around the world admire the achievement.

Whilst Americans hail the achievements of millionaires and billionaires, as if they were national heroes. A lot of good that achievement does Joe America down in the slums of Chicago, New York or Los Angeles.

An economic paradigm need not be grossly unfair, we make it that way out of choice. That is the ONLY POINT I am trying to get across.


I need not be reminded that a great many Americans are fair and decent people. But they have had their political priorities in the wrong place for the past three decades.

Mesmerized by a movie star that the government was preventing all of them from becoming millionaires. Leave people alone and the wealth would trickled down upon them. Yeah, right ... now pull the other leg.

Expanding the economic pie (growth, growth, growth) only enlarges the profit-stream that trickles upwards to the 20%ers. It creates jobs at or just above the minimum wage for far too many. Too many others are treading water in a middle-class existence that could mean personal bankruptcy at any moment. The least bit of serious illness and they tilt into the abyss., begging for mercy from a hospital to provide costly remedial care for a serious illness. When such treatment should be their basic right.

It leaves them to fend for themselves for a decent Education with which to obtain the skills necessary for a decent job at a decent wage. And when that is not enough, they are thrown out of house and home.

Social Justice does not mean a Hand-out. It means a Hand-up.

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By Lafayette, January 9, 2012 at 8:53 am Link to this comment

Good article, BM.

Keep it up. Show these greedy sycophants for what they are - flunkies, all of them.

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By IMax, January 9, 2012 at 5:57 am Link to this comment

“Americans do not understand how the deck is stacked against them. And, yes, they need to be ‘educated’.”


I see what you’re attempting to say.  You repeat it here often.  You understand most Americans fail to see the world as you see it so, you make sense of this by rationalizing how most people must be stupid.

Imagine how moderate Americans, the majority, feel about your rationalization.  It’s my opinion that the majority look on you as the Limbaugh of the radical left.  Most Americans will completely dismiss you out of their lives.  I fail to see how belittling others brings about real change.

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By WHootie Who, January 9, 2012 at 5:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


You can certainly call Venezuela a “democracy” (China, Russia, Iran, even Saudi Arabia have elections but are hardly democratic)

The United states imports a HUGE amount of OIL from non-functioning “Democracies” and some of the world’s most despotic regimes and their “corperate” entities

Canada ( A fully functioning democracy ) Supplies the USA with about 2,324,000 Barrels of Oil per day (all by pipeline)

The Keystone Pipeline would add 800,000 barrels that could replace the 1/2 the oil that the USA imports from Saudi Arabia (remember them? they took out your World Trade centre, supplied the world with Osama bin laden et al)

or All the oil you import from Nigeria, Angola, Russia, Chad, Oman (again all by ship)

So when you protest recieving oil from a democracy (by a very safe pipeline) like Canada you are really only protecting the intrests of non-functioning democracies and despotic regimes and the shipping industry that it supports

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By Lafayette, January 9, 2012 at 4:21 am Link to this comment


JW: Unfortunately, our President has now joined this group.

Opinionated and naive polemical bullshit.

We expected miracles of Obama and when he showed that he did not know how to walk-on-water after the worst recession in 80 years, out of mindless apathy, we stayed away from the polls in the mid-terms.

Forty-eight percent, a minority, of American voters allowed the T-Party (T for Troglodyte) to infest the HofR and stymie all efforts at stimulus spending to create jobs.

And now we think we have the RIGHT to bitch ‘n moan and think the PotUS has been bought by BigMoney?


It seems that Americans who complain about the presidency have forgot that ours is tripartite system of government. It was intended that way - to prevent power from accumulating in just one branch, the Executive.

Look at reality in the face. If we do not elect progressives into Congress then there’s not much that an Executive can do in terms of legislation that will reform America.

There are so many reforms necessary, like getting BigMoney out of politics. It will take much more than a QuickFix in next November’s elections.

Only a broad, fundamental change in Congressional mentality, which can only come about by more progressives in Congress, will bring the focus upon policy-making that enhances the well-being of all Americans and not just an elite minority.

And that will take at least another decade, if at all.

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By Lafayette, January 9, 2012 at 4:07 am Link to this comment


IMax: The majority of Americans are not stupid. They’re simply not ‘progressive’.  Most Americans seek a different path.  This different path does not make the majority bad people.  Only different.

People who are uninformed or remain ignorant of the facts are, indeed, stupid. It is not hereditary. What is meant is political apathy and a bent to elect TV personalities instead of individuals who promote Social Justice out of acute naiveness.

Why did they expect miracles from a Barack Obama who was handed the worst recession in 80 years on a platter by the previous administration? Why did they cut his administration’s legs off at the knees by staying away form the polls and thus allowing the T-Party (T for Troglodyte) to infest the HofR.

All that demonstrated “real smarts”? OK, now pull the other leg.

In fact, the lack of political education is the real nub. Americans do not understand how the deck is stacked against them. And, yes, they need to be “educated”.

But for all the brouhaha on TV, what do we see on the Right? A three-ring circus. And on the Left? Glee that the Replicants are self-destructing.

Pray tell, how does that advance the cause of Social Justice for which Americans are crying out in the OWS-movement of indignation?

If we do not coalesce around Progressive Values, and obtain that vote, then we (the sheeple) will, yet again, fumble the ball. When that happens, the Replicants will remain sufficiently in place to maintain the gridlock in LaLaLand on the Potomac.

Is that what we want?  No.


If you mean by “not progressive” anti-socialist, then you are dead-wrong and ignorant of the benefits of an egalitarian society. You’ve swallowed hook, line ‘n sinker, the bunk that the Rabid Right peddles as pap for the masses.

I’ve seen social-democrat principles at work in Europe for four decades. I know how they enhance the well-being of the European people, who voted for social democrats out of a keen desire for progressive-values in political policy-making.

Progressive values are the way to go.

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By JackW, January 8, 2012 at 3:05 pm Link to this comment

We are bought and there’s no denying it.  We are in
the hands of the Monied Elite who are making the
decisions for this government.  Unfortunately, our
President has now joined this group.  Search out
Lawrence Lessig’s advice in REPUBLIC, LOST and on his
website.  He understands this process and heads us
in the right direction.  It is time to raise a
ruckus, whether we are realists or cynics!  Enough is
enough!  Also, Buddy Roemer is the only presidential
candidate who is talking about campaign financing
reform and he can’t even get into the debates!  By
the way, I just posted this on my FB page, The
Needle’s Eye -
Politics/315193488498269le - where there are other
articles along this line.

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By newday, January 8, 2012 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

WHootie who:
It looks like you’ve swallowed the corporate news crap fed to us that Venezuela (your spelling is wrong) is a dictatorship, when in reality it has a level of democracy exponentially greater than ours. 
That’s exactly why they have rejected multi-national corporate influence while we haven’t.
Chavez has accepted the results of all of the referendums including ones in which the people voted against his interests. 
You read too much New York Times!
We can only dream of the democracy that is functioning so well in Venezuela.
By the way, countries that represent 80% of the population of South America have voted in anti corporate regimes!  We are about 20 years behind them, and it’s going to take enduring a lot more pain before Americans wake up and do the same.

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By IMax, January 8, 2012 at 2:03 pm Link to this comment

The Democrat Progressive Caucus is, if not the largest democratic caucuses, one of the largest. The DPC exercises a good deal of its weight within the legislative process in Washington.  On the other hand: At this time there are very few democratic congressmen living in districts which will support members caucusing with the progressive minded. This is simply the way it is. 

The majority of Americans are not stupid. They’re simply not ‘progressive’.  Most Americans seek a different path.  This different path does not make the majority bad people.  Only different.

All of this could change, the Progressive Caucus may grow larger, if more democrats got off their collective ass every two years Nov. 2.

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By Lafayette, January 8, 2012 at 12:26 pm Link to this comment

But if you think, as I do, that we need deep change in this country, then cynicism is a sucker’s bet.

I do indeed, believe profound reform is necessary.

I am fearful however that Americans do not understand the long-term plight they are in. The economy is stacked against them, delivering most of the fruits of their labor to an entrenched privileged. (In fact, it’s not 1% but 20% of American households that garner 93% of the country’s wealth. The 1% get just less than half of the total.)

Inspiring Americans with sound-bite metaphors will solve nothing. We’ve had the same mindless bullshit from politicians for far too long. Most refuse to look at the fact that Americans have to bite the bullet to undergo the changes necessary.

Winston Churchill was the only politician who got away with promising people “blood, sweat and tears”. Today’s politicians prefer “pie in the sky” - it’s a much sweeter sell.

As I never tire of repeating, until it sinks in, we must reformulate the country’s taxation scheme. Rates have to be put back up to above where they were before Reckless Ronnie came to LaLaLand on the Potomac.

For that to happen, however, we shall need a more progressive breed of politicians. Only 83 of our present 435 representative to Congress are part of the Democrat Progressive Caucus. (See what that means here.)

Let’s make sure that those people return to Congress. Let’s also make sure that the Progressive Caucus grows and grows and grows until it has an influence on the legislative agenda.

Only them will National Reform be an obtainable goal.

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By WHootie Who, January 8, 2012 at 10:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Who is funding the anti-democratic oil from Canada?

As your piece suggest follow the money, Who Would lose out on the 800,000 barrels of oil Canada could supply?

Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Venuzualla ... All Despotic regiemes, not to mention the enviormental risk of transporting this oil accross the sea

Open up your eyes America, Sure you don’t want the jobs but you also can’t wean yourself off cheap energy, Coal fired electricity or $3.50/ Gallon Gas (most of the world pays twice this amount)

Given that choice why get the jobs, reliable supply from a DEMOCRACY, and continued cheap Oil, when instead you can support the intrests of despotic regiemes state owned companies (ARAMCO, CITGO) and their CLEAN oil (really that is your arguement?)


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By Inherit The Wind, January 8, 2012 at 7:19 am Link to this comment

If I give $100 to a candidate, you can go on to Google and find out that I did that, my name, my address, how much I gave, and who I gave it to.

But just TRY to find out who is backing Mitt Romney in his super-pacs.  About every 6 months, they give a list.  But it’s all corporate names. Who is behind those lists?  Are they AMERICAN companies or foreign companies?  Are they yet another layer of shell corporations hiding their TRUE donors?  We don’t know.

Yet THEIR secrecy to give millions is “protected speech” yet my $100 must be fully publicly available.

What could be a more obvious rupture of honesty in our electoral system?

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By MeHere, January 7, 2012 at 9:58 pm Link to this comment

Thanks to B. McKibben for this article and all his work.

The question remains: What is there to do when most of the 99% remains wedded to the two parties and keeps supporting the corruption which B. Mckibben so eloquently describes?  When they deny or ignore environmental issues, or are selective in their concern about important problems?

The only answer seems to be to continue the struggle, be patient and not abandon hope.

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By AnAlienEarthling, January 7, 2012 at 7:24 pm Link to this comment

I would have to agree with Gerard on this one: the opposite of cynical is not naivete. It is idealism - the set of convictions that over the course of our history has compelled tens of millions of us to argue, to verbalize, to write, to protest, to march ... to make the world “a better place,” convictions that include the belief that the world ought to be (and “ought to be” implies “can be”) a place where even the least well off have unencumbered access to life’s necessities, to “quality” food (and water), to quality health-care, to quality education, to “due process”, to the political process, .... These are the convictions that characterize the idealism that opposes cynicism (Teddy Kennedy’s eulogy to Bobby Kennedy is one of the more moving reminders of the idealism that still moves us: cf.

I also have to agree with David Cyr, that we the voting public must take greater responsibility for our citizenship. However, this greater responsibility doesn’t have to assume the form of voting for a 3rd party. Rather, it should first assume the form of a much deeper commitment to Earth and to the world’s children. This requires nothing less than a change in our everyday lifestyles.

Congress always threatens us with “higher prices” at the cash register whenever we make demands for a safer, healthier, less-toxic, genuinely “stewarded” Earth. Although the truth is that CEOs aren’t willing to accept less profits for a better Earth, a better future for children, we consumers have also to be willing to pay the higher prices. We have to liberate ourselves from “consumption addiction” - we saw it again this year during the Xmas sales. Still, after several decades of hearing about environmental degradation, soil, water, slavery, non-fair trade production, gold, diamonds, toxic cosmetics, ..., the commodities at the end of these supply chains remain the “idols” of most consumers. If this idolatry, this addiction ends, then genuine change will come to Earth, to our children’s lives, to societies the world over.

Not moral naivety, but a renewed idealism towards Life generally, one that embraces love for Earth and for the world’s children - to strive to do our “best” for the world’s children will engender a better Earth (and what could be simpler?).

Political change must be rooted in a change in ourselves, in a consumer ethic that articulates care for Earth and the world’s children - it is an existential imperative that we ignore at threat of our extinction and the extinction of several thousands of species.

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By David J. Cyr, January 7, 2012 at 4:47 pm Link to this comment

QUOTE, Bill McKibben:

“It would be relatively easy to change this…”

Yes, it would be “relatively easy to change” the complete corporate corruption of American government, **IF** the American voters weren’t near all completely dedicated to the corporate (R) & (D) party.

No substantive systemic change — not even existentially (necessary for our species survival) needed change — will come easy, as long as the 99% are 99% corporate ownership compliantly voting for the corporate party’s Republican and Democrat team.

The “progressives” are liberals who keep voting for the corporate party’s Democrats so they can keep protesting against what they keep voting for.

Jill Stein for President:

Voter Consent Wastes Dissent:

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By IMax, January 7, 2012 at 4:36 pm Link to this comment


The things you write would go so much further if you would, on occasion, lend us some ‘wise’ and ‘appropriate’ suggestions to real problems.  Platitudes are wonderful until we walk out our front door to confront billions of people who believe and behave differently.


Here are some suggestions with an eye toward real and lasting changes. All can be discussed. Even voted on.

1. Term limits.

2. Ban all lobbying for five years after leaving public office.

3. Zero private campaign donations. a. only public financing for presidential campaigns b. no foreign donations c. all private issues oriented adds must detail sources of funding for all who ask.

4. A well funded, fifty state, concerted campaign to show people how all issues are local (banking regulation, Iran, foreign aid, insurance, school books). This must be a state effort ONLY. Not federal.

5. Every November hold issues oriented elections. Allow voters to decide which are the 10-15 most important issues to the public in every state (99%). - This will benefit the public by showing us how what works in New York does not, necessarily, work in Nebraska or Tennessee.

6. Mandate every member of the House and Senate, with little exception, vote on the above 10-15 issues during the State of the Union in January. - Perhaps mandating that legislation be produced within, say, 120 days after the State of the Union. The majority rules. It’s final!

7. Two pieces of identification, at least one displaying a clear photograph, in order to cast a ballot.

8. If the ‘99%’ are to be taken seriously more than 40% of Americans must vote.

9. Get off your ass on election day!

Concrete suggestions can be debated, gerard. Let’s have less of your esoteric symbolism and more substance, please.

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By gerard, January 7, 2012 at 1:48 pm Link to this comment

P.S.  I’d like to suggest right out of the gate that the opposite of cynical and calculating is NOT naivete!
  The opposite of cynical is believing it is possible to achieve moral/ethical goals, visionary.
  The opposite of calculating is knowledgebale enough to take wise and appropriate action.
  Naivete is what we already have too much of:  That is, the idea that “they” are too powerful and that “we” can have no possible influence on decisions; that there is “no way” to achieve a better government, to get rid of wars etc. etc.

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By gerard, January 7, 2012 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment


      Get Money Out of Politics!

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